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Reflections from students on International Day of People with Disability

Published: 3rd December 2021

Friday, 3 December marks International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) 2021, an important reminder that disability takes different forms from physical and sensory disabilities, neurological disabilities, medical conditions and mental illness. This year, we hear from students Mitchell Hutchinson and Saima Khan (pictured) who share their personal experiences with disability.

Saima Khan

Mitchell Hutchinson is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts and has been living with a mental health condition since 2016.

He reminds us, "Disability can be invisible to the human eye. From a person who has a physical disability needing them to wear prosthetics under their clothes to a person with brain chemicals that make them depressed and anxious. It is important to not pre-judge individuals who seem healthy when they may very well have a disability that has and continues to impact their life every day."

Mitchell is open about sharing his personal journey in life, which includes facing depression and anxiety through high school and higher education, admitting that at times it has been challenging to develop friendships or complete a course of study.

When asked what stereotypes he’s encountered and what myths he can bust about his disability, he says that mental illness needs to be treated seriously, like an illness and a disability.

“Mental illness is NOT a choice, and it is NOT a sign of weakness.”

On the contrary, he believes that learning to manage and live with an ongoing mental health condition is the definition of strength. He goes on to say, “It should be treated on a sliding scale like any other illness with appropriate escalations in treatment for those that need it and live with it.”

Saima Khan is competing a Graduate Diploma in Counselling and has a disability.

Like Mitchell, she has encountered myths that mental illness is caused by a lack of strength and finds there isn’t a lot of awareness that it is an illness which needs treatment, like any other illness.  

She reminds us that “Because it cannot be seen does not mean that it is not debilitating and extremely difficult for the person experiencing it."

Saima emphasised the collective need to fight the stigma on mental health to normalise the discourses surrounding disability and mental health challenges.

In her words, this is important, “So that we can have some difficult conversations around the issues concerning mental health and disability and raise and answer some difficult questions around these topics.

“People who suffer mental health concerns and challenges need to be helped and supported in the long term through social and institutional support. We need to not only have an empathic understanding around these issues, but also need to have systems and institutions that will help these individuals in the long haul.”

Accessing support from the Access and Inclusion Team 

Do you have a disability, medical or mental health condition, or care for a person with a disability? The University’s Access and Inclusion Team support students with disability and primary carers by providing reasonable adjustments to study. If this relates to you, don’t hesitate to contact the team to find out how they can support you and your journey at Murdoch today.

Access and Inclusion can be contacted by email (access@murdoch.edu.au) or by calling reception on (08) 9360 6084.